16 November 2013

Spurge v. Chickweed

petty spurge

I came nose to leaf with a spurge today. During a tidying up session I found this dainty little plant bravely growing out of a crack in the decking.

petty spurge

Do you remember my encounter with spurge last summer when I mistook the poisonous spurge for an edible chickweed? What a hoot.

I have to confess though that I still don't know the difference between the two weeds. Like a dumb animal I simply learnt not to eat little weeds. So here, after some googling, is the definitive explanation:

  1. Chickweed has tiny, white star-like flowers, whereas spurge flowers are yellowy green
  2. Chickweed has hairs growing on its stalk, spurge is hairless
  3. Spurge has white sap, chickweed doesn't.

chickweed v spurge
Image from Flickr stream of Adam Grub 'Eat That Weed'
This image found on Flickr shows the two plants together. Similar yet different.

So, if you too want to forage chickweed perhaps it would be best to wait until the plant is in flower and snap the stalk to see if it bleeds white sap.   Got it.

On a different note, I want to put in a plea in defence of decking. We are always told that the worst thing you could do if you want to encourage wildlife into your garden is to put in decking. However, from my experience of being such a sinner I want to point out that yes, perhaps birds and bees aren't interested but there is still a lot of biological activity underneath and within the decking boards.

If you are not evangelical about cleanliness then weeds will grow, and moss, they in turn will attract those tiny little insect things that are at the bottom of the food chain.

Ecosystems, people, ecosystems!

Last year an absolutely huge fungus grew underneath the boards. It was spongey and orange and a bit Doctor Who-y in its worrying proportions. In contrast during the hot weather of summer spiders and beetles love the warmth of the wood. Even That Cat likes lounging on it, and That Cat is definitely 'wildlife'.

So I say don't be ashamed of your decking.

The odd chameleon can also turn up.  ;-)

Adam Grub's image